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Allergies Health Center

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What To Do if You Suspect a Skin Allergy

"Dear diary, the perfume lady surprise-spritzed me. Now I have a red, itchy skin rash."

If you think you have an allergic skin reaction/condition, keep a diary. Not a regular diary, but a symptom diary.

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Taking note of what you come in contact with, what symptoms develop -- and where -- can help you identify and avoid your allergy triggers. It also lets you give your doctor clues about the cause of your allergies.

Perfumes, certain metals, dyes, and latex (rubber) are common causes of an allergic skin reaction called contact dermatitis. Foods and even some medications may trigger hives, which are another form of skin allergy. Hives are itchy and look like swollen red patches or welts on the skin.

Swelling of the deeper skin layers is called angioedema. It can happen along with hives and often affects the eyelids, lips, tongue, hands, and feet.

Review your routine

  • Have you worn jewelry made of nickel?
  • Have you used a new hair dye, cosmetic, soap, lotion, or perfume?
  • Have you worn rubber gloves, or touched rubber toys or balloons?
  • Have you used any antibiotic medication on your skin? Neomycin, a common ingredient, can cause an allergic skin reaction/condition.

An allergic skin reaction can start right after you touch something. You can also suddenly become allergic to something that has never bothered you before. So, don’t rule out as the trigger something you’ve been using for years.

Also keep in mind that your symptoms may not show up for a day or two after you’re exposed.

Skin allergy symptoms often go away on their own in a week or two, but treatment may make you more comfortable in the meantime.

If you have serious symptoms like trouble breathing or swelling in your throat, they could be signs of a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Call 911 right away.

If you have severe allergies, you should keep two epinephrine injection kits with you at all times and readily available.  If you experience any sign of anaphylaxis, do not hesitate to use the epinephrine auto-injector, even if those symptoms do not appear to be allergy related. Using the auto-injector as a precaution will not harm you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on January 21, 2015

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